A few days ago the folks at Boing Boing rebroadcast an imagine that they’d picked up from Salon.com politics editor Elias Isquith. The image, which has now been shared by over 8,000 people on Facebook alone, started showing up in my social media feeds this morning, accompanied by words like, “horrifying.” On the face of it, the image really is horrifying, as it appears to show that a surprising number of both men and women alike in this country believe there are instances when rape is “OK.” Fortunately, though, the image doesn’t tell the whole story… Here it is.
The thing is, the image comes from a study of only 432 adolescents, in a very distinct geographic area (Los Angles).
And… by the way… the study was conducted 35 years ago.
Oh, and the results can, to a large extent, be explained by the fact that the UCLA researchers conducting the study in 1978 had people respond on a 5-point scale, and counted everyone who didn’t respond with a 1 as a “yes.”
In other words, these 432 adolescents were asked something along the lines of, “If a woman gets a man sexually excited, is non-consensual intercourse justified? Please answer on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 meaning the act would absolutely not be justified, and 5 meaning that it absolutely would be justified.” And, if a person responded with a 2, as people are generally inclined not to responds with absolutes (1s and 5s) in such cases, it was counted as a “yes.”
The folks at Salon and Boing Boing should be ashamed of themselves for sharing this without the proper context. My hope is that it was just an oversight on their part, and not purposefully done to drive web traffic.
[note: More on the study can be found at FearUs.org.]